Grading The Selection Committee
Like many of those who try to pick the field I missed some teams this year. I had Alabama, VT, and Colorado in and the committee selected Georgia, UAB and VCU. I don't have a problem with any of the exclusions (though I am very surprised by Colorado who I think looked like a tournament team and had the wins of a tournament team), but I do think the UAB inclusion was a bad one. UAB was 1-4 against the RPI top 50 (the one win over VCU) and 9-8 against the RPI top 100 (that is a decent amount of top 100 wins as far as that goes). Clearly, the committee chose to value UAB winning the Conference USA title (conference USA was 8th in the RPI this). To me UAB showed they could beat NIT caliber teams not NCAA caliber teams. I think there were better teams available.
The common trend among those who were excluded was bad non-conference strength of schedules. The committee has always emphasized the non-conference strength of schedule, but they really sent a message with it this year. Colorado, Bama and VT had non-conference strength of schedules of 331, 294, and 153. At the end of the day this is what got them left out. Alabama in fact had better wins than Georgia and beat Georgia twice, but because Georgia scheduled better they were a 10 seed while Bama was at home. Honestly I have no problem when the committee sends this message. They have been doing it for years. When you play a non-conference schedule that is as bad as these teams you better have an overwhelming overall resume or you will be left at home.
As far as overall seeding I did not have any big issues with any of the seeds. I thought Georgetown was too high, but they were rewarded for a great SOS and stellar RPI numbers, which is fine. I had Notre Dame as a 1 seed over Duke, but the Duke choice is fine (and in fact I think they are my favorite to win the whole thing). I had Uconn as the last two seed and SD State as the top 3, and it appears the committee went the other way around. Even the teams I was off on I am fine with the committee's placement. I had Missouri as a 9 seed, but the way they finished and their performance away from home this year an 11 is reasonable. I thought Penn State was too high as a 10 especially when you compare them to a team like Marquette, but the committee gets 1 seed line to play with so you never know if they had to move them or not. To me no teams that were excluded had an ironclad case to get in and only 1 team included had a poor case to get in (UAB).
Today is the start of my favorite 4 game stretch of the season. Here are the first round games I am most looking forward to.
Thursday 12pm on CBS, WVU v Clemson- I always look forward to watching Huggins teams play and this is a very dangerous 5/12 game. Clemson has a big disadvantage of having played in Dayton in the late game Tuesday and then having to fly to St Pete for the noon game Thursday, but Clemson is playing really good basketball and I think Brad Brownell is one hell of a coach. As much as Huggins has got out of this WVU team, they have to execute at a very high level to win games, because they just do not have individuals who can take over. I like WVU in this one but it could be close.
Thursday 1:30 pm on TBS, Louisville v Morehead State- Morehead State has one of the best players in the tournament in Kenneth Faried. I'm really excited to see him play against a team as good as Louisville and think he could give them trouble. I have Louisville going all the way to the elite eight, but I would not be shocked if Morehead State gave them all they could handle. Last year's OVC champion Murray State won a game in the tournament last season.
Thursday 7PM on CBS, BYU vs. Wofford- Wofford is an experienced team that played really well last year in the tournament. BYU has been great all year and has an absolutely stellar record against tournament teams, but they have been missing something since the Davies suspension. Of course I am stoked to watch Jimmer, but I think this game has the potential to be the biggest upset of the first round.
Thursday 7:15 on TruTv, Wisconsin vs. Belmont- I'm very excited to watch Belmont play. They are a deep squad that just destroyed the Atlantic Sun this year. Ken Pom's efficiency rankings really thought highly of this squad. When Wisconsin players their best they are a top 15 caliber team, but they can look very ugly at times. This is another game that has the potential to be an upset (and has been a very trendy upset pick).
Thursday 9:45 pm on TNT, Cincinnati v Missouri- Not much introduction needed here. Been waiting 6 years for this game.
Friday 12 pm on CBS, Texas v Oakland- Texas has at times looked like the best team in the country but really struggled down the stretch. If those struggles continue this Oakland team is capable of beating them.
Friday 7:15 pm on TruTv, Xavier v Marquette- I am very much interested in seeing how much in Xavier's “improvement” is actual improvement and how much is from playing in the Atlantic Ten. I think the 11th place team in the Big East has to be thrilled with the draw they got and could very well beat Xavier in this game.
Friday 9:45 pm on TNT, Georgetown v VCU- Many did not like the VCU selection, but they are a very dangerous team and I think were worthy given their wins over the course of the year. Georgetown really struggled down the stretch. The big question here is does Chris Wright come back and how effective is he? With a healthy, effective Chris Wright Georgetown is a very dangerous 6 seed. Without him they could be one and done.
Potential First Round Upsets (11 seed or higher winning)
12 Clemson over 5 WVU
11 Marquette over 6 Xavier
13 Oakland over 4 Texas
14 Wofford over 3 BYU
11 Gonzaga over 6 St Johns
13 Belmont over 4 Wisconsin
12 Utah State over 5 Kansas State
11 VCU over 6 Georgetown
12 Richmond over 5 Vanderbilt
Potential Sweet 16 sleepers (7 seeds and below)
10 Michigan State
My Elite Eight
My Final Four
Duke over Pitt